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Wanton or Wonton: Homeschooling Spelling Matters

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spelling


A Wonton Disregard for Dumplings


My husband asked me to spell "wanton" for one of our newsletters. Apparently, he had written "wonton disregard" which means, of course, that you don't care for Asian dumplings. He was trying to say "wanton disregard" but the spelling didn't quite come out right. When your children ask why they need to study Wordly Wise and other spelling and vocabulary programs, just tell them that one day you hope they will be able to write a newsletter without embarrassing themselves!

I received a call from a homeschooling mother once, who was concerned about her son's academic level. He excelled in math and science, but didn't do well in language and spelling. I asked her if he had taken any standardized tests, and she replied that her son had tested "barely on grade level" for spelling.

Time for a reality-based intervention here. When my kids started using Spelling Power my husband and I tested our OWN spelling level. My husband is an engineer and manager at a "major northwest aerospace firm" and writes every day as part of his job. He spells at a 7th grade level. I have a bachelor's degree in nursing, and I spell at a 9th grade level. I enjoy teasing my husband about his spelling whenever I can (now, for example). Both of our kids can spell circles around us!

If your child is spelling "at grade level," that's wonderful!  It's nothing to worry about or be ashamed of! Encourage your speller as much as you can. At some point in high school, spelling is no longer taught as a separate subject, but is instead incorporated into writing. I don't encourage you to have a wanton disregard for spelling - I'm just saying that adults are able to compensate for spelling, and your child can compensate as well. With dictionaries, spell checkers and helpful spouses - if they have to - they can overcome spelling as poorly as even we do!

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Please note: This post was originally published in September 2008 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter, The HomeScholar Record, so you can check my husband's articles for spelling errors.  Because what he REALLY needs is thousands of homeschool moms looking over his shoulder!
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Comments 17

Guest - Sarah on Monday, 30 September 2013 10:38

I believe leaning to spell is very important when the students are young and learning to read. It is important to learn all the sounds that different phonograms make and how they are spelled. It can be confusing if they are not presented in a logical order and can lead to poor spelling. I am a grammar nerd and a word lover, and I worked hard to teach my kids to spell while they were learning to read. BUT, they ALL still struggle with spelling words correctly...just like their dad (who is an avid reader). I still wonder how much spelling is related to genetics. I wish I knew how to help them overcome the spelling hurdle, but it looks like it will be a life-long challenge for them.

Jackie: The word "that" is used to begin a restrictive clause. Some writers insist that the word "that" cannot be used to refer to people, but in situations where the people are not specifically named, it is acceptable.

I believe leaning to spell is very important when the students are young and learning to read. It is important to learn all the sounds that different phonograms make and how they are spelled. It can be confusing if they are not presented in a logical order and can lead to poor spelling. I am a grammar nerd and a word lover, and I worked hard to teach my kids to spell while they were learning to read. BUT, they ALL still struggle with spelling words correctly...just like their dad (who is an avid reader). I still wonder how much spelling is related to genetics. I wish I knew how to help them overcome the spelling hurdle, but it looks like it will be a life-long challenge for them. Jackie: The word "that" is used to begin a restrictive clause. Some writers insist that the word "that" cannot be used to refer to people, but in situations where the people are not specifically named, it is acceptable.
Guest - Jackie on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 06:56

Lee, I love your articles. Thank you for sharing. I hear lots of homeschool moms say they are terrible spellers and they guess their children will be to and they seem to accept that. That is okay for them, but not so much for me. I guess my frustration is, if you don't know how to spell something, look it up.

Just as a small tease, and I may be wrong on this so correct me if I am, in your third paragraph shouldn't the first sentence say, "call from a mother WHO was describing"?

Thanks again, Lee.

Lee, I love your articles. Thank you for sharing. I hear lots of homeschool moms say they are terrible spellers and they guess their children will be to and they seem to accept that. That is okay for them, but not so much for me. I guess my frustration is, if you don't know how to spell something, look it up. Just as a small tease, and I may be wrong on this so correct me if I am, in your third paragraph shouldn't the first sentence say, "call from a mother WHO was describing"? Thanks again, Lee.
Guest - Kim on Monday, 20 May 2013 06:48

I must admit I am a stickler for spelling. I guess it's because spelling comes easy for me, I'm a former newspaper editor, and when I was in elementary school, my school's culture communicated that misspelled words were a mark of ignorance and being uneducated. I don't personally believe this on a conscious level, and I'm indebted to spell-check myself, but I do think I tend to discount written discourse that is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. If someone doesn't have time to communicate their thoughts carefully, I don't have time to read them.

I use AVKO and my kids are great spellers... Way above "grade- level," whatever that means. Is it because of AVKO or does spelling come easily to them? I don't know. But I'm glad they can spell and punctuate pretty well.

I must admit I am a stickler for spelling. I guess it's because spelling comes easy for me, I'm a former newspaper editor, and when I was in elementary school, my school's culture communicated that misspelled words were a mark of ignorance and being uneducated. I don't personally believe this on a conscious level, and I'm indebted to spell-check myself, but I do think I tend to discount written discourse that is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. If someone doesn't have time to communicate their thoughts carefully, I don't have time to read them. I use AVKO and my kids are great spellers... Way above "grade- level," whatever that means. Is it because of AVKO or does spelling come easily to them? I don't know. But I'm glad they can spell and punctuate pretty well.
Guest - Melissa on Friday, 18 May 2012 07:48

Thank you for the reminder that spelling is not the final determiner in one's success in life. Two out of three sons are spelling challenged in our family. We have tried many programs over the years, yet still have not found the magic bullet. Both spelling challenged sons score well above average in Math, Science, and Thinking Skills on standardized tests. God has blessed them with strengths and weaknesses that a loving wife will compliment. After all, my dear husband (who manages a successful local business)also compensates by asking me how to spell a word when needed. God truely does prepare us for the work which He calls us to.

Thank you for the reminder that spelling is not the final determiner in one's success in life. Two out of three sons are spelling challenged in our family. We have tried many programs over the years, yet still have not found the magic bullet. Both spelling challenged sons score well above average in Math, Science, and Thinking Skills on standardized tests. God has blessed them with strengths and weaknesses that a loving wife will compliment. After all, my dear husband (who manages a successful local business)also compensates by asking me how to spell a word when needed. God truely does prepare us for the work which He calls us to.
Guest - Sheryl Lynn Roberts on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 16:48

I think that the most important skill in spelling is to recognize when a word IS misspelled. Once you have that down, you can figure out how to correct it. We have been using Sequential Spelling for years and love it!

Sheryl

I think that the most important skill in spelling is to recognize when a word IS misspelled. Once you have that down, you can figure out how to correct it. We have been using Sequential Spelling for years and love it! Sheryl
Guest - Marcella Andreasen on Sunday, 10 April 2011 12:33

Spelling Ace has proved to be the most effective spelling enhancer for my kids. Additionally, the thesaurus feature increases their compositions at the push of a button. By means of stealth, the hangman game offers practice in spelling that they otherwise would complete grudgingly.

Spelling Ace has proved to be the most effective spelling enhancer for my kids. Additionally, the thesaurus feature increases their compositions at the push of a button. By means of stealth, the hangman game offers practice in spelling that they otherwise would complete grudgingly.
Guest - Lois on Thursday, 28 January 2010 19:13

I need to exercise more grace in my life toward others. My pet peeve is misspelled words from highly educated individuals! How someone can pass AP physics, calculus and the like with flying colors, and misuse or misspell simple words just drives me crazy! Maybe it's because I could spell that I didn't have to take advanced math and science courses. Someone has to be the spelling police!!!! There is a reason I don't like texting, too. (My spell check doesn't recognize texting!!!!)

I tried using Spelling Power with my kids, since they didn't seem to inherit my panache for words. They didn't like it, and I never enjoyed learning from a list either. I guess I never did teach spelling as a separate subject, but we always played a lot of games with words, Quiddler being a family favorite, and Scrabble. Today my daughter is a better speller than she was even a year ago, and my son tied for 3rd in the local spelling bee. We just always studied the words we were using, and any rules that applied to those words.

I need to exercise more grace in my life toward others. My pet peeve is misspelled words from highly educated individuals! How someone can pass AP physics, calculus and the like with flying colors, and misuse or misspell simple words just drives me crazy! Maybe it's because I could spell that I didn't have to take advanced math and science courses. Someone has to be the spelling police!!!! There is a reason I don't like texting, too. (My spell check doesn't recognize texting!!!!) I tried using Spelling Power with my kids, since they didn't seem to inherit my panache for words. They didn't like it, and I never enjoyed learning from a list either. I guess I never did teach spelling as a separate subject, but we always played a lot of games with words, Quiddler being a family favorite, and Scrabble. Today my daughter is a better speller than she was even a year ago, and my son tied for 3rd in the local spelling bee. We just always studied the words we were using, and any rules that applied to those words.
Guest - Lee (website) on Thursday, 15 October 2009 14:01

Hi Kimberely,
We used only Spelling Power. I have to say, her quick start video was extremely helpful! Once I recognized how to use that spelling program for all learning styles, it was a perfect fit for our family.
Blessings,
Lee

Hi Kimberely, We used only Spelling Power. I have to say, her quick start video was extremely helpful! Once I recognized how to use that spelling program for all learning styles, it was a perfect fit for our family. Blessings, Lee
Guest - Kimberely on Thursday, 15 October 2009 14:00

Opps! I mean, did you USE Spelling Power or other programs as well?

Opps! I mean, did you USE Spelling Power or other programs as well?
Guest - Kimberely on Thursday, 15 October 2009 13:59

Did you Spelling Power or other programs as well?

Did you Spelling Power or other programs as well?
Guest - Lee (website) on Friday, 18 September 2009 10:29

Teresa,
To be honest, I don't think it's just homeschool mothers that are doing it. I think it's the general population. I also think it has to do with how quickly people are typing when they work, so I try to give them a break for the most part. I know I'm not always perfect - I do a ton of writing and it's almost impossible to get everything write all the time.
Blessings,
Lee

Teresa, To be honest, I don't think it's just homeschool mothers that are doing it. I think it's the general population. I also think it has to do with how quickly people are typing when they work, so I try to give them a break for the most part. I know I'm not always perfect - I do a ton of writing and it's almost impossible to get everything write all the time. Blessings, Lee
Guest - Teresa on Friday, 18 September 2009 08:08

Lee, why is it that I see so often in the emails and handouts of homeschool mothers:
their, there, they're
your, you're
used incorrectly? Is it just because spell check can't pick it up? It's embarrassing!!

Lee, why is it that I see so often in the emails and handouts of homeschool mothers: their, there, they're your, you're used incorrectly? Is it just because spell check can't pick it up? It's embarrassing!!
Guest - CT on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 14:03

I get distinct pleasure out of sightings of misplaced apostrophes on signs and in advertising brochures. My kids may have trouble spelling but I know, at least, they will not mix up its and it's. Thank you for the timely words just prior to another year of my saying, "Go look it up in the dictionary."

I get distinct pleasure out of sightings of misplaced apostrophes on signs and in advertising brochures. My kids may have trouble spelling but I know, at least, they will not mix up its and it's. Thank you for the timely words just prior to another year of my saying, "Go look it up in the dictionary."
Guest - J W on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 17:28

Hey, check out this article about a couple who just had to do something about errors on national park signs!

http://www.komonews.com/news/offbeat/27280654.html

Hey, check out this article about a couple who just had to do something about errors on national park signs! http://www.komonews.com/news/offbeat/27280654.html
Guest - Lee (website) on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 08:23

The problem with spell check, is that it's not always an issue of spelling. Like "wanton-wonton." We also had an issue with "shudder-shutter" in the upcoming newsletter, but I didn't think I should bring that up at the same time! But that wouldn't have been picked up by spell check either.

I would also like to mention that my husband and I are products of our public schools. They don't know how to teach these things perfectly either :-)

Blessings,
Lee

The problem with spell check, is that it's not always an issue of spelling. Like "wanton-wonton." We also had an issue with "shudder-shutter" in the upcoming newsletter, but I didn't think I should bring that up at the same time! But that wouldn't have been picked up by spell check either. I would also like to mention that my husband and I are products of our public schools. They don't know how to teach these things perfectly either :-) Blessings, Lee
Guest - J W on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 08:18

On my students' computer accounts, I turn off the spell check on the word processor. For each each student I draw up a list of words she misspelled (usually about 5 words). The list is then studied for a weekly test. Sometimes there aren't any misspelled words. On those occasions, I pick out words that are commonly misspelled or really challenging words.

I don't practice what I preach, though. I use spell check and the Google search toolbar on my browser. Google usually lets me know if I've misspelled something. I don't think I've ever known my DH to misspell anything other than names.

On my students' computer accounts, I turn off the spell check on the word processor. For each each student I draw up a list of words she misspelled (usually about 5 words). The list is then studied for a weekly test. Sometimes there aren't any misspelled words. On those occasions, I pick out words that are commonly misspelled or really challenging words. I don't practice what I preach, though. I use spell check and the Google search toolbar on my browser. Google usually lets me know if I've misspelled something. I don't think I've ever known my DH to misspell anything other than names.
Guest - Christy (website) on Monday, 22 September 2008 19:21

LOL!
I compensate with Spellcheck!
My dh compensates by asking me how to spell something.

LOL! I compensate with Spellcheck! My dh compensates by asking me how to spell something.
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